Instead, of a sailor, Miyamoto opted for another blue-collar profession — a carpenter, and one who sported a mustache and Mario's trademark overalls and hat. The character was originally just called "Jumpman" since he had to leap over obstacles; then, the real star of the game was Donkey Kong.
When Nintendo released "Donkey Kong" in the United States, the company's American executives felt that Jumpman needed a better name. Workers at Nintendo's Washington warehouse had started calling the character "Mario" because he resembled the property's landlord, a man named Mario Segale, according to the book "Game Over, Press Start to Continue." Miyamoto heard about the nickname and liked it, so he stuck with it.
"They started calling the character Mario, and when I heard that I said 'Oh, Mario's a great name — let's use that,'" Miyamoto told NPR in 2015.
"Donkey Kong" was extremely popular in arcades around the world, earning the game its own spot in the pantheon of classic video games. Nintendo went on develop several sequels to the original before tasking Miyamoto with breaking out the Mario character for his own game. Miyamoto created a brother for Mario (the green-clad Luigi) and the pair debuted in the 1983 arcade game "Mario Bros.," which was mainly only distributed in Japan.
Two years later, though, Mario's star exploded worldwide when Nintendo released "Super Mario Bros." as the centerpiece game for its NES home-gaming console. After its successful release, Nintendo started bundling "Super Mario Bros." with its consoles — so, if you bought the system, you got the game too — which helped further drive sales. The Nintendo NES went on to become the best-selling video game console of its generation, selling over 60 million units, according to the company.